Suggesting all you need to become a successful Hollywood director is to be an already successful commercials director, and have really good agents and stuff
The feisty Margaret Dashwood from Ang Lee’s 1995 film has converted to Islam
I’ve admitted before that I’m a huge fan of the ultimate “chick flick,” Ang Lee’s definitive version of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” released in 1995. Emma Thompson won an Oscar for her brilliant screenplay (based, of course, on Austen’s work). She also played Elinor Dashwood in the film which starred Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Gemma Jones, Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton, Tom Wilkinson, and so many other great British actors.
After making her extraordinary film debut the year before in Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures,” Kate Winslet shined as Thompson’s sister, Marianne Dashwood. She received her first of six Oscar nominations for the role. I always wondered what happened the youngest Dashwood girl, Margaret. 12-year-old Emilie François was so charming, funny, and smart in this pivotal role that I felt certain she’d have a movie career as rich as Thompson and Winslet’s. But following two more roles in a couple of forgettable films, I never again heard a peep about the actress.
Until last night. I was listening a fascinating BBC report on British citizens who have become Muslims and was surprised to hear a profile of Emilie François—now known as Myriam Francois-Cerrah. The former actress explained that she was deeply affected and enraged by the events of 9/11, and as a result began to learn as much as she could about the Islamic faith. She herself was a skeptical Catholic who had a growing distaste for organized religion. But the more she researched Islam and read the Qu'ran, the more it resonated within her. Following her graduation from Cambridge in 2003, she shocked everyone around her by converting to Islam. Today she is an active and articulate spokesperson for Muslim understanding. Currently finishing up her doctorate in Middle East Politics at Oxford University, Cerrah appears often on the BBC and writes articles for publications around the world.
Cast and crew of the 1969 classic will be on hand to honor the legendary John Wayne
If you will be in Los Angeles on Thursday, November 10, and are a fan of actor John Wayne, you may want to join me at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood for a once-in-a-lifetime reunion and screening of Wayne's great 1969 film “True Grit.” I enjoyed the Coen Brothers’ 2010 remake and thought Jeff Bridges did an excellent job, but let’s face it, no one does U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn like the Duke.
The evening will be hosted by the Jules Verne Festival, a French organization whose mission is to honor “the spirit of adventure and conservation through entertainment.” Two of John Wayne’s sons, Patrick and Ethan Wayne, will be on hand to accept their father’s “Legendaire” award. Plenty of special guests associated with the film will also be present, including actress Kim Darby who played Mattie Ross, the young girl who hires Rooster Cogburn to track down her father’s killer.
I must admit that it's only been in recent years that I’ve begun to fully appreciate John Wayne’s contributions to the movies. Although he appeared in many different kinds of films during his career (Wayne started making movies during the silent era and continued until just a few years before his death in 1979), he’s best known for classic American Westerns such as “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” “The Quiet Man,” “The Searchers,” “Rio Bravo,” and, of course, “True Grit” for which he won his only Academy Award. Wayne reprised the role six years later for the film “Rooster Cogburn” (co-starring Katharine Hepburn).
I can’t wait to see “True Grit,” directed by Henry Hathaway and written by Marguerite Roberts (based on the novel by Charles Portis), projected onto the gigantic screen of the Cinerama Dome, one of the best places in Los Angeles to see movies. Special behind-the-scenes footage and shorts about the film will also be screened as well as recent interviews with some of the film's other stars including Glen Campbell.
Tickets for the November 10 event are still available and can be purchased here.
On homicide, 'normal' kids and Hit Girl Halloween costumes
In Ami Cannan Mann's directorial debut "Texas Killing Fields," Chloë Grace Moretz plays Anne, a troubled kid with a less-than-great mom who finds support -- and no small amount of friendship -- in the attention of homicide cops Jeffery Dean Morgan and Sam Worthington. After breakout roles in "Kick Ass" and "Let Me In," Moretz wasn't worried about the acting task of playing a 'normal' kid her age; when we spoke with her, she also talked about the challenges of dark material, and the upcoming Martin Scorsese film 'Hugo,' plus what goes through her head when she sees people dressed up like her "Kick Ass" character Hit Girl for Halloween. ...
When you were looking at the script for 'Texas Killing Fields,' what was going through your mind?
Moretz: A bunch of things were going through my mind. I have to say initially how interesting my character was, how intricate my character was. It was so three-dimensional, because she wasn't just a tortured young girl; she's more than just that girl. She has so much complexity to her and so many ideas in her head, so many things she was going through. She knew it, but at the same time, she didn't really know what was going on. I found that really special.
This is a great character. You've played some exceptional young people, but Anne is a fairly normal kid in fairly strange circumstances. Was that part of the appeal of it, to play that regular kid who comes home and has problems with Mom?
Moretz: It's interesting because yes, she is a normal kid, but at the same time, she has a mom who's a meth addict and prostitute, so not only is she a normal kid, but she's dealing with circumstances that no child should ever deal with. She is going through things that no one should ever go through. I don't think she's a normal kid; I think that she is very tortured and has a lot of things that she's going through -- a lot of things she shouldn't be going through.
When I say 'normal,' I guess I'm putting that on a sliding scale of not wearing a costume and fighting crime or being a vampire.
'Cloverfield' and 'Let Me In' director to take over hot project
Director Matt Reeves looks to be taking his next swing at a genre film, with early reports coming in that he's been picked to helm Warner Bros.' take on a "The Twilight Zone" film. Reeves has previously directed "Let Me In" and "Cloverfield," with rumors of a "Cloverfield" sequel swirling for years. Deadline reports that formal negotiations will get underway early next week so that Reeves can be signed soon and the film can get started shooting sometime next summer or just before. This project has been a hot property for a number of directors with much bigger names than Reeves, including Christopher Nolan, Michael Bay, Alfonso Cuarón, and Rupert Wyatt, whose names were all reportedly on a WB wish list.
The script for the film comes from Jason Rothenberg, who has adapted it from Rod Serling's seminal television series. Not much is known about the film, but it will not be an anthology film like the last "Twilight Zone" flick, and is described as "a big science fiction action movie with a single freestanding story that is linked to the original series mainly in that it shares that familiarly eerie feel." That may sound a bit like an "in name only" approach, but let's hope that's not the truth.
Though Reeves has not done another feature after his "Let Me In" (which was an Americanized adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist's "Let the Right One In"), but his name has been attached to a number of other properties with a sci-fi bent, including a deal to develop and direct an adaption of Kenneth Oppel's novel "This Dark Endeavor" (a Frankenstein-based tale), an attachment to direct another novel-based project (from Justin Cronin's vampire book "The Passage"), and a deal to write and direct a film based on Ray Nelson's short story "8 O'Clock in the Morning" (no vampires or monsters here, it's an alien-based tale). Reeves is clearly positioning himself to be cinema's next great genre director, and "The Twilight Zone" will certainly fit perfectly into that plan.
Emily Watson uncovers a horrific international secret
As all of this week’s new films tank, “Footloose” slips behind “Real Steel”
Is anyone going to the movies these days? Or are this weekend’s pathetic box office numbers more a statement of the lack of quality product? While the movie-going habits of Americans have clearly been changing (especially among that coveted demographic—young males), I have to believe that people will still flock to theaters when something opens that they really want to see. And maybe, just maybe, that something is NOT a retread of an old 1980s film that wasn’t so great to begin with. The remake of “Footloose” almost made it to the #1 position this weekend, but even if it had, its $5.6 M opening day was nothing to dance home about, especially after such a relentless ad campaign.
Nope, the #1 film this weekend remained DreamWorks/Disney’s “Real Steel” which started slow and then had a big jump on Saturday (perhaps when disappointed patrons stared blankly at the list of new releases at their local multiplex). The film earned $16 M this weekend (at 3,440 theaters) while Paramount’s “Footloose,” falling to #2, only managed to pull in $15.5 M (at 3,549 theaters). While the overall reviews for the film were better than I expected, the question still remains: WHY? The Kevin Bacon original was hardly a film that screamed for a remake. I wonder if the studio ever considered offering Bacon and Lori Singer the part of Ariel’s uptight parents (played by Dennis Quaid and Andie MacDowell here). Some stunt casting might have worked wonders.
At #3, Universal’s “The Thing,” pitched as a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 film, performed poorly, with a weekend total of $8.5 M (at 2,996 theaters). The next four films were holdovers from the past several weeks, hopefully signaling to Hollywood that pics of higher quality will at least sustain some business. At #4, George Clooney’s “The Ides of March” pulled in another $7.5 M (at 2,199 theaters) while the ever-popular “Dolphin Tale,” moved to #5 in its fourth weekend, with $6.3 M (at 3,286 theaters).
“Moneyball,” also in its fourth weekend, fell to #6, bringing in another $5.5 M (at 2.840 theaters) while “50/50” held its own at #7 with a $4.5 M weekend (at 2,391 theaters). At #8, the only other new film to make the Top Ten this weekend was Fox’s “The Big Year” starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black. For a film with such big stars, its opening was awful, earning only $3.2 in three days (at 2,150 theaters). Is the American public telling the studio what was already obvious to moviegoers everywhere? That most people find the subject of birdwatching as repellent as discussions of the debt ceiling? The evangelically oriented film, “Courageous,” miraculously came in at #9, adding another $3.2 M to its holy coffers (in only 1,214 theaters), while the #10 film, “Dream House,” managed to scare up another $2.6 M in its third weekend (in 2,172 theaters).
All in all, an abysmal weekend for the movies. Will it take “Three Musketeers” to save the day next week? Or might it require some “Paranormal Activity?”
'The Threat,' 'Follow Me Quietly' and 'The Captive City' are minor pictures with some major pleasures
Felix Feist is no auteur but he made some minor classics of the noir genre, notably "The Devil Thumbs a Ride" and "Tomorrow is Another Day." Here he has a good story (if not always a great script) and a truly menacing heavy in Charles McGraw as death-row killer Red Kluger, his tenor gravel and heavy frame carrying the threat of the title in every step and speech. Red isn't simply engineering a getaway, he's plotting his revenge against everyone who put him in prison and getting rid of anyone standing in his way.
We're not talking lost masterpiece here; Feist is saddled with flat dialogue ("Now you know how a good detective works. When he finds something, he calls!"), generic sets and a cast of frankly non-charismatic leads (Michael O'Shea adequate as the cop hero, Robert Shayne a real stiff as his partner, and Frank Conroy almost a non-entity as the D.A..). But Virginia Grey is superb as a trampled flower of a showgirl and Feist allocates his limited budget cleverly, saving his resources for a few set pieces, notably the finale in a hunting cabin where the wait for a getaway plane drags on and the tension turns to violence with a dynamic crane shot and a brutal bare-knuckle brawl. This is the kind of punch that low-budget crime films could and, at their best, did deliver.
"Follow Me Quietly" (Warner Archive), a 59-minute thriller from Richard Fleischer (soon to be a major studio director but in 1949 paying his dues in specialty shorts and B-movies), is just as good, and just as limited. This was clearly timed to play the bottom of a double bill, but it has better production values than most B-movies and Fleischer devotes much greater care to the direction. He's announcing his ambitions here.
William Lundigan is the lead detective on the trail of a self-styled executioner called "The Judge" and Jeff Corey is his loyal, supportive partner, supplying the wry remarks as Lundigan applies modern techniques to build a physical and psychological profile from a smattering of clues: an early profiler in a shadowy film noir world. Fleischer does a tremendous job of whipping up drama from a generally static script, though even he can't generate much heat from the love-hate tension between Lundigan and spunky, persistent reporter Dorothy Patrick. But while Fleischer garnered well-deserved kudos for a couple of sharp cinematic stings involving the dummy they mock up from the clues, his more impressive achievement is the eerie mood he creates from a generic backlot city street set and the chase finale he stages in an industrial plant, full of pipes and tanks and catwalks and ladders, a labyrinth that Fleischer employs superbly before the film's final jab. (You should just ignore the romantic comedy of the framing coda, just one of those conventions of B-crime movies designed to left audiences back out of the darkness before send them out of the theater.)